There’s something I love about sitting at a restaurant’s bar. You get to know the place better than you ever would sitting at a table, whether it’s from observing the staff, chatting up the bartender, eavesdropping on other patrons or, you know, actually talking to them.
Diner counters are similar, but they’re usually used for a quicker meal with less alcohol, meaning you probably won’t gain the same level of familiarity. Unless that diner counter becomes a de facto bar at night.
That’s what happens when the clock strikes 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at Bernie’s in Falmouth, and the diner turns into Esidore’s Bistro at Night.
Opened in July, Esidore’s is the joint effort of Bernie’s owner Adam Shapiro and his cousin, Jay Harris, the bistro’s chef.
The drink menu consists of 16-ounce cans of beer ($6), wines by the glass or bottle ($9 or $33), hot sake ($9) and three ciders ($6 to $8).
The counter-turned-bar isn’t exactly where you’d go to waste the night away, but it makes for a fine place to meet a friend for a glass of wine and a snack from the menu’s smaller-plates section, which includes Ezzy’s Fries ($8), a bowl of thick fingers of potato tossed in togarashi seasoning and served with sriracha mayo for a double dose of spice. Edamame and nachos are other shareable options.
By now, you’ve probably caught on that the food is, as the back of the menu describes, “American in nature … with a true melting pot of flavors and worldwide influences.” The bigger plates include confit fried chicken, tacos and a chicken curry noodle bowl.
I don’t know if it was the menu, some subtle lighting changes or just a shift in mindset, but it was surprising how the ambiance of what I consider to be a pretty quintessential diner, always packed on weekend mornings, could suddenly feel so bistro-like.
The booths where families squeeze in with plates of pancakes, sides of home fries and all the corresponding condiments piled in front of them suddenly became a quiet spot for a couple to enjoy an intimate dinner.
The counter, however, with its round, in-ground stools at a hover-over-your-plate height, couldn’t quite disguise itself.
There’s no alcohol visibly displayed and, the night a friend and I were there, no other bar patrons to banter with.
But it does have a view into the kitchen in earshot of the chefs, which gave it that feeling of familiarity I so enjoy. It also provided for more interaction with the one waitress working. As she came and went, retrieving drinks and dishes, we found out she was a longtime friend of the chef and had opened other restaurants with him in Colorado.
Later on, the chef himself popped out and casually chatted with us about his plans for the menu, his culinary training in Vietnam and his gluten-free diet.
By the end of the night, I’d caught up with a friend, gained some insider knowledge of a new place and learned a valuable lesson: Don’t judge a bar by its counter.
WHAT: Esidore’s Bistro at Night
WHERE: 204 Route 1, Falmouth
HOURS: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
AMENITIES: Tall beer cans, wines by the glass and bottle, sake and cider, menu with “worldwide influences,” outdoor seating, bar seating with view into kitchen
BOTTOM LINE: Bernie’s Foreside by day now turns into Esidore’s Bistro five nights a week with a low-key ambiance and thoughtful, globally-inspired food. The bar may still look like a diner counter, but it plays the part well and serves as a great place to get a glass of wine or beer with a friend — something Falmouth can always use more of.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes